The Saga of your life

The Saga (@GetSaga) lifelogging app brings RunKeeper (@runkeeper) activities into a user’s location-based view of their life’s activities. Jeremy Bensley (@jbensley) walks us through how A.R.O., Inc. (@arodotcom), makers of Saga, use the Health Graph platform (@healthgraphapi) to show the saga of your life.

Bill Day: Please tell us about yourself and your work.

Jeremy Bensley

Jeremy Bensley: I’m the Director of Server Development at A.R.O., Inc. Running the platform development team means I’m involved with many tasks on a daily basis, but at my core I’m a data guy, and specifically I love tracking my movements, my activities, and my habits. My background is in machine learning, natural language processing, and making sense of lots and lots of (often noisy) output from sensors. Aside from managerial duties my primary tasks for Saga are the time segmentation of the LifeLog and integration with external APIs such as RunKeeper’s Health Graph API.

A.R.O. is a great place to work. We think the sensors in your smartphone can be used to power a wide range of awesome app experiences. Everything from contextually-aware systems like Google Now to virtual personal assistants like Siri, and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface on this potential.

BD: What is the “elevator pitch” for why someone should use Saga?

JB: Saga is a location lifelog. It creates a diary of your life based on where you go. The beauty of Saga is that it does this without requiring much attention from the user. Different people will like different aspects of Saga: Perhaps you will use it to figure out how to optimize your commute to work, or how you run your errands. Or as a beautiful way to tell the story of your amazing weekend.

BD: How did you get started using the Health Graph API?

JB: We wanted to include health details as part of the Saga lifelog. A first step is including information such as the details of your run from RunKeeper. For many runners, running is a part of your life, more than just the numbers of the run (distance, time, pace, etc). It’s about getting out to a unique location, having an amazing run or race, meeting up with fellow runners at the pub afterward, and basically just having a wonderful weekend.

And Health Graph users aren’t tracking just runs or other forms of exercise. Right now we’re focusing on run information, but soon we will incorporate other measurements available in Health Graph platform such as body measurements and food intake.

BD: How will the Health Graph platform benefit your business?

JB: People who use the Health Graph through a number of tools have already established a form of lifelogging practice, just very focused. We think they will be familiar with lifelogging in general, and appreciate the additional context that Saga will provide to their existing logging practice.

BD: Which portions of the Health Graph API do you use, and why?

JB: For our initial integration we are pulling the FitnessActivityFeed and associated FitnessActivities to display a summary of a user’s workout in their lifelog. We have plans in our roadmap for expanding upon this to include other activity feeds and eventually allow people to post into some of these feeds using data from Saga.

Saga screenshot

BD: What do you like about the Health Graph API? What would you like to see changed?

JB: It’s an amazingly comprehensive platform for tracking all of the health-related aspects of your life, and it’s fantastic that RunKeeper places such a strong emphasis and dedication to making this the best API for health tracking. My only complaint as a developer would be the lack of API versioning, or if it exists documentation on its usage. [Editor’s note: Please monitor “revisions” via this blog for updates and modifications to the Health Graph API and platform.]

BD: If you could request any new feature from the Health Graph platform, what would it be? How would you use it?

JB: I believe the Health Graph platform provides an amazingly comprehensive health tracking API. Nonetheless I’d like to see extra data to allow for timestamp normalization, by including either a UTC timestamp or the user’s timezone in the activity data.

BD: Can you share any future plans for Saga? What’s coming next that people will be excited about? Does the Health Graph platform play a role in that, and if so, how?

JB: In the future, Saga will incorporate more logging services (for example, a service to track mood, menstrual cycle, music listening) to include in the lifelog. The Health Graph platform will certainly be a part of that, as right now we have a very small subset of it included.

Bill Day (@billday) is Platform Evangelist & PM for RunKeeper where he helps developers learn about and use the Health Graph platform.


Health Graph third party libraries

We have created a new “Health Graph libraries” page to provide a repository for all of the third party Health Graph API libraries, wrappers, bindings, and other tools available for developers.

Click here to access the page or here to jump straight to the Google Docs spreadsheet. You can subscribe to the spreadsheet’s RSS feed here to receive future updates and additions via your reader of choice.

The spreadsheet is also embedded below (scroll right to see the rest of each listing).

Please contact us via Twitter @healthgraphapi, Facebook, or Google+ if you know of others that should be added. Thanks!

Bill Day (@billday) is Platform Evangelist for RunKeeper where he helps developers learn about and use the Health Graph.


What should we discuss?

As part of the ongoing dialog I hope to have with you I wanted to ask you about your opinions for what I should write about here on the Health Graph blog.

I’m considering a variety of topics to cover. Some of the many things I’d like to write about include:

  • How to get started with the Health Graph API, a “Health Graph 101” series
  • Partner profiles and interviews with developers on how they take advantage of the Health Graph in their apps
  • Third party libraries, bindings, wrappers, and other tools that make using the Health Graph easier
  • Application launch announcements and success stories
  • Slide decks and video presentations on using the Health Graph (hackathons, here I come!)
  • Application ideas and features requested by the RunKeeper user community
  • Tips and tricks to build apps using the Health Graph as quickly and efficiently as possible

What do you think? What would you like to see in future blog posts?

Please fill out the Google Docs form below to share your opinion. Note that if you would like me to be able to contact you, you should provide an email address in that optional field; if you want to remain anonymous, please leave it blank.

I’m also considering having office hours where I’m available to chat about whatever Health Graph issues you’re having via Skype or a Google Hangout. If you’d find either or both of those options useful, or have a suggestion for a different mechanism, please indicate that on the form, too.

Thanks for your input!


Bill Day (@billday) is Platform Evangelist for RunKeeper where he helps developers learn about and use the Health Graph.